Seven Chosen to Serve

Acts 6.1-7

The Apostles turn a potentially divisive problem into a ministry solution and increase their reach by raising up leaders within the church.

Jesus prayed for the unity of the church on that last evening in the upper room with His disciples (John 17.20-21). He said that all the world would know that we are His disciples by our love for one another (John 13.35). Too often, I’m afraid, it’s not our unity and love we’re known for. Too often the prejudices and divisiveness, the selfishness and self-serving attitude of the outside world infects the church. We are too easily offended and too quick to assume the worst in others. Grumbling and complaining is our default. It shouldn’t be that way.

How should we respond when crisis happens or we feel like our needs (not our wants) are being overlooked? First of all, don’t assume it’s intentional. The Apostles didn’t intentionally overlook the Hellenistic Jewish widows, and don’t assume that leadership in your church is intentionally overlooking or ignoring the needs of folks within the body. Doesn’t mean that they can respond to every want, but I’m sure they do their best to cover the needs that they are aware of.

Second, be part of the solution. Select from among yourselves seven…not just any seven, but seven who were spiritually mature and had the skill set to help. Maybe you are the person to step in and help. Maybe you know the person who should. But instead of being a grumbler…instead of throwing rocks…do something to help out. How can you be a part of the solution?

Third, keep the main thing the main thing. We have a real enemy who doesn’t want to see us succeed…as individuals or as a body of believers. As Mike Harris often says, “He’s not going to give us a free pass.” He prowls about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. Unfortunately in our successes we often sow the seeds of defeat. We let our guard down. The busyness of life that success often brings crowds out our devotional time with the Lord. Instead of focusing on time in the Word and time in prayer, we have too much to do. And that’s when the lion pounces.

Finally, celebrate the win. Often times we can move from task to task and not celebrate and thank God for the victories and wins He has given us. And what is the win?  Transforming families to live and love like Jesus. When we come together to solve problems and meet needs we reflect the unity that Jesus calls us to. And we show love in the process. There is plenty of hatred in the world…plenty of prejudice and divisiveness…plenty of me-ism. Let’s not let it affect our church.

Until next time…let’s pray.

This post is based on a sermon from our Acts series. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Generosity

2 Corinthians 8.1-15

Two characters in the Gospel of Luke highlight for me two approaches to generosity…the Rich Young Ruler (Luke 18) and Zacchaeus (Luke 19). The Rich Young Ruler was well respected and generally a good guy. Zacchaeus was not…not either of them. While the Rich Young Ruler was likely a much loved leader in religious circles, Zacchaeus was a despised tax collector…and not just a tax collector, but a chief tax collector. Both had an encounter with Jesus…one became a generous giver and the other left very sad. Jesus changed everything. For Zacchaeus, Jesus’ gracious offer of salvation was Good News indeed, and he went from being a taker to a giver, from greedy to generous… But the Rich Young Ruler couldn’t stand to part with his stuff. His selfishness and greed just became more pronounced.

Generosity isn’t something we should shy away from…it’s actually one of the defining characteristics of Christianity. Throughout church history, the care for the poor was a sign of the church. It won converts, it was a witness in itself of the power and provision of God. Because our Father is generous, He wants His kids to be generous too. The liberating joy of our salvation should loosen our grip on our earthly fortunes…our stuff…and free us up to give with unbridled generosity. We, as believers, should be the most generous folks on the planet!

So whose kingdom are you building? Whose stuff are you protecting? Yours or Jesus’? We cannot enjoy the kingdom unless we are submitted to the King, and we cannot submit to the King if we are still hanging on to our stuff. Are you mastered by the desire to get or give (Acts 20.35)? Do you trust God’s generosity enough to be generous?

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we reflect the generous character of Jesus this week in any and every circumstance.”

This post is based on the sermon, Generosity. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

A Life of Account

“But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.” Acts 20:24 NASB
In Acts Chapter 20, we find Paul on his third missionary journey, heading toward Jerusalem.
In verses 2 and 3 we read of yet another plot to kill Paul. Despite opposition Paul always pressed on.
I have always read the story of Eutychus, with a bit of humor – reminding myself, to pay attention during sermons – sleeping can be dangerous!
Paul’s encounter with the Ephesian elders in Chapter 20 is one of the most moving passages of scripture.  Paul knew he would probably not see them again after years of ministry together.
You can feel the passion and care for one other as you read through Paul’s final speech to the elders of the church at Ephesus – one of the seven churches listed in Revelation 2.
There are two verses in this chapter that really hit home for me.
“But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.” Acts 20:24 NASB
In summarizing his life’s journey, for Paul, it was always about serving the Lord. Paul was focused on finishing the course, serving in the ministry he was called to and sharing the gospel with consistency and intentionality.
It seems we tend to get stalled along the way at times, forgetting the big picture, focusing on the small stuff, instead of what really matters – serving Jesus. We lose all sense of intentionality, going with the flow, forgetting our purpose.
We can go months, maybe even years stuck in idle. Like Paul, we need to stay the course, moving in the right direction with purpose and intentionality.
“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers…” Acts 20:28 NASB
How is my own relationship with God?  Am I growing? These are questions I ask myself when thinking through this passage. We cannot care for others if we ourselves are straying from the path.
How many times have we had opportunity to serve in some way but fall short because we can barely take care of our own spiritual lives? That secret sin that prevents us from growing closer to God, preventing us of a ministry opportunity?
God has placed people in all of our lives, our family, friends and others. Our flock, those God has given us to tend to. We must guard those folks as well as ourselves from the wolves that may come to attack.
I am always reminded when reading the writings of Paul and the Book of Acts that we want to finish strong.  Paul serves as a great model of one who finished strong and gave an account.
Until next time… keep reading!
Jim

Easter Devotional – March 6

Matthew 10:1-15

The Twelve Disciples; Instructions for Service

Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.

Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him.

These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, 10 or a bag for your journey, or even two coats, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support. 11 And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave that city. 12 As you enter the house, give it your greeting. 13 If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace. 14 Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. 15 Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.

On any large project that involves a lot of people, a few are always called out to take on more responsibility than others. Here Jesus calls out His twelve. He has an urgent mission for them. Their sacrifice is great – cutting off ties, completely changing their lives, going wherever they’re asked to go. They will essentially be doing what Jesus has been doing – healing, exorcising, proclaiming the Good News. Then they’re told that although some people will be excited to see them and eager to listen to what they have to say, others will not be.

Have you been called to something for God? Given greater responsibility? Maybe it’s raising children to live and love like Jesus. Maybe it’s changing jobs or re-locating or going on a missions trip. Are you willing to make the sacrifice? Are you willing to deal with being unpopular?

Prayer: Gracious Lord Jesus, give me courage to be unpopular for You.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB © The Lockman Foundation (www.lockman.org)